Public Policy and the Public Good

By Ethan Fishman | Go to book overview

4
Aquinas, Prudence, and Health Care Policy

Clarke E. Cochran

Take, next, the virtue called prudence. Is not this virtue constantly on the lookout to distinguish what is good and what is evil, so that there be no mistake in seeking the one and avoiding the other?

-- Augustine, City of God

Michael Walzer Spheres of Justice ( 1983: ch. 3) contains an illuminating account of health care. Walzer argues that just distribution of health care is a matter of communal provision. The type of care and its extent, however, are not fixed, but may legitimately vary, depending upon how health fits into the self-understanding of particular communities. Put another way, policy makers must adjust the demands of justice to the particularities of community circumstances. Thomas Aquinas's theory of prudence, I shall argue, could well help to make such adjustments in contemporary health care policy.

In Aquinas, prudence is not simply a cautious virtue, but one in which the highest things come alive in human action. There are, I contend, two different kinds of prudence, which I shall refer to as "higher" and "lower" prudence. 1 Each is a legitimate form of prudence. Lower prudence is cautious and discreet. It is defensive, focused on survival and respect. These are important values, reflecting proper concern with limited resources and dangers to self and community. Higher prudence, on the other hand,

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Public Policy and the Public Good
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Political Science ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • 1: The Rabbi and the Fig Tree: A Lesson for the Supreme Court on Capital Punishment 1
  • References 12
  • 2 - Plato and the Media 15
  • References 27
  • 3 - The Tide Just Keeps Rising: An Aristotelian Perspective on the Crisis in American Education 29
  • References 44
  • 4 - Aquinas, Prudence, and Health Care Policy 47
  • Notes 60
  • Notes 61
  • 5: Martin Luther on Political Leadership 63
  • References 78
  • 6 - A Hobbesian Analysis of the Dangers of Interest-Group Liberalism 81
  • Notes 95
  • 7 - Native Peoples and Lockean Philosophy: Land Claims and Self-Government 97
  • References 109
  • 8: The Republican Tradition and Affirmative Action 111
  • References 125
  • 9 - Surrogate Motherhood: Contract, Gender, and Liberal Politics 127
  • Notes 141
  • References 141
  • 10 - Marx and the Computer 143
  • References 153
  • Selected Bibliography 157
  • Index 161
  • About the Contributors 165
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